One Man's Opinion - UCLA review

Prior to the game between USC and UCLA, Bruin linebacker Spencer Havner made a point of saying that the Bruins' Defense faced the best tailback in America every day in practice and his name is Maurice Drew. Now that the game is over, and now that USC Trojans have demolished the Bruins of Westwood 66 to 19, I can't help but wonder if he has changed his mind.

After all, it was USC tailback supreme Reggie Bush who single handedly destroyed UCLA and he gained a mere 260 yards on the ground all by himself. Needless to say, to my way of thinking, two major issues were proven in today's massacre. First and foremost, USC is the far better team. The Bruins may have come in with a record of 9-1 and ranked number 12, but they are not even in the same league as the Trojans. Secondly, Reggie Bush is not only the best tailback around, he is simply the very best player in college football. I can't believe the Reggie will not become the 3rd Trojan in the last 4 years to win the coveted Heisman Trophy. How perfect it is for Bush to have put an exclamation point on his claim to that title as the Trojans smashed UCLA for its34th consecutive win and 7th straight against the Boys in Powder Blue.

So what really happened today and what did it mean? To my way of thinking, the Trojans dominated this game from start to finish and they simply imposed their will on the Bruins. USC ran the ball at will and there was literally nothing UCLA could do about it. What a sad and helpless feeling it must have been for the entire Bruin Staff and Players as they had to watch USC amass an incredible 430 yards rushing. For a non-option team to be able to do that against their highly ranked crosstown rival had to be as demoralizing a scenario for the Bruins as one could ever imagine. Every time SC had the ball, it seemed like they could run the ball right at UCLA if they really wanted to do it. At one point in the third quarter, I could not help but wonder why SC ever bothered to pass the ball since UCLA never showed any ability whatsoever to stop or even mildly contain the run. As if Reggie Bush was not a big enough problem by himself, (with the help of a great Oline of course), it seemed like LenDale White was also at the top of his game. Once again LenDale proved to be one of those guys who can miss all kinds of practice due to injuries and still come out and play great football.

One issue that has come up several times this season is whether or not this current USC offense is the best of all time. After finishing the regular season, I have to say that if it is not the very best, it has to be right up there. The one thing that is indisputable is the fact that this offense is incredibly balanced. When the passing game is out of synch as it was in the first half of today's game and at other times late in the season, it was the running game that came to the rescue. On the other hand, on those relatively few occasions when it really looked like the SC runners could be held in relative check, it seemed like Matt Leinart and the passing game came to the rescue This year's team has racked up number NEVER BEFORE SEEN at USC and nobody held this juggernaut in check, absolutely nobody. I thilnk the one element that this team had that many of the other great offenses could not match is the incredible balance. The opposition could never focus on one aspect of SC's offense, because it is did, some other part of the offense always came to the recuse. Norm Chow has departed, that is for sure. However, the offense this season never missed a beat and the incredible balance displayed lead to unparalled success with Matt Leinart at quarterback. Another very interesting aspect of the offense was demonstrated tonight. When SC wants to and/orhas to, it can utilize the tight ends and backs out of the backfield to further demoralize and destroy the opposition. Oh how enjoyable it was to watch Fred Davis catch a ball and smash his way over and into UCLA players on his way to a touchdown.

How about that defense that SC brought to the field today? UCLA came into the game averaging some 40 points a game and well over 400 yards per game in total offense. Today they were most fortunate to score 19 points with the last 13 points coming against the second and third string USC defense. They were able to gain only 275 total yards ,meaning they barely gained more than Reggie gained by himself. To my way of thinking, the SC defense stepped up in a big way and they deserve a world of credit. In almost every journal article and on every broadcast that I watched, the SC defense was labled suspect. Perhaps some of those criticisms were justified, but today SC's defense was more than a match for the highly touted UCLA offense. USC managed to sack Drew Olson 5 times and they were in his face on countless other occasions. UCLA could not block the Trojans and the defensive backs also stepped up. Despite all the injuries at linebacker, the youngsters that were available stepped up and the results were obvious. Rey Maualuga seemed to be all over the place and he caused two fumbles with vicious hits. Sedric Ellis showed unbelievable speed when he chased down Drew Olson and the Trojans always seemed to have several guys around Marcedes Lewis. UCLA could never get untracked against the first string SC defense and it was a pleasure to watch. I also loved to watch the stepped up play of returning starter John Walker when he got into the game. On one play he deflected a long pass when he was isolated in one on one coverage.

Special teams have been a thorn in USC's side for much of this season. I guess we will never know how SC planned to deal with punts today. I don't remember seeing any, at least none in prime time. On kickoffs, there was an apparent decision to keep the ball out of Drew's hands at all cost. I have to say that strategy worked to near perfection. Only one time did the kickoff unit give up a pretty impressive return and believe me when I say, SC kicked off many times today. Mario Danelo hit all his PAT's and he also hit the one field goal he tried. This guy might not kick them long, but he is very accurate indeed from 40 yards or less. SC also had relatively few serious penalties and to be perfectly honest, there is not much negative to say about any aspect of this game.

What about coaching? Well, I can't help but feel that this was one of Pete's best efforts of the entire year. UCLA had three weeks and SC had only two, but that was more than enough time for Pete to get some of his guys healthy and to come up with a gameplan that was too much for the Bruins to handle. For the very first time all year, the Trojans wisely came out with the idea of physically imposing its will upon the enemy, so to speak, and they accomplished that mission to near perfection. The offensive gameplan worked as did the defensive approach. Once again Pete came up with schemes and approaches that were better than those of his opponent. Personally, I think Pete took offense to all that cheap talk about how UCLA really should have won the game and all that talk about last year's game. Thus, he had his guys ready and able to get it done in a convincing manner this time around. And how sweet it was.

So here we are. The regular season is done. The Trojans have won all 12 games and they are rated as the number one team in America. Of course, once again we hear how great the Big12 Champion is and we have to endure the relative lack of respect afforded to the Pac-10. To listen to the geniuses on many stations and to guys like Lee Corso, Texas is really the best team and they are just too strong. Well, maybe, but maybe not. Seems to me that we heard similar claims about last year's Oklahoma Sooners. They were also too fast and too this and that for SC. The Rose Bowl should be an interesting matchup between two fine teams. I imagine it is Texas that will get more accolades, but the game has to be won on the field. When Pete Carroll has almost one month to prepare, it is hard to imagine many, if any college coaches getting the better of Pete and his staff. I guess only time will tell. Right now, I will say this. Congratulations to the number one ranked USC Trojans. Bravo, for a job well done, well done indeed.


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